MARIJUANA LAW NEEDS CLARIFICATION
Whatever comes of Kimball Township's zoning dispute with Jim and Debra Amsdill, one thing is clear: Michigan lawmakers have neglected their responsibility to clarify the state's medical marijuana law.
The Amsdills own the Blue Water Compassion Center, one of an increasing number of businesses throughout Michigan that accommodate state-licensed medical marijuana patients.
The center is in a strip mall on Lapeer Road in Kimball -- nearly across the street from Landmark Academy. Kimball officials say such a facility shouldn't be that close to a school.
Two years ago, Michigan voters approved the medical marijuana law with the best of intentions. Those with proven medical needs for the drug ought to be able to use it without facing criminal consequences.
The law's aim, however, has been harmed by its application. Communities throughout the state have struggled to manage marijuana clinics that emerged. With no clear provisions as to how close the facilities should be to day-care facilities, churches and schools, municipalities have been forced to figure that out for themselves.
Unlike some communities, Kimball isn't trying to ban its marijuana center. The zoning ordinance township officials adopted Dec. 7 prevents such facilities from operating 1,000 feet or less from parks, churches or schools.
The Amsdills' business is less than 500 feet from Landmark Academy. Township Supervisor Rob Usakowski hopes to persuade the couple to reopen their center in another location that won't violate the ordinance.
That brings us back to the state Legislature. Despite the need to clarify the law, Lansing has done nothing to address the questions and concerns with which local governments are coping.
The medical marijuana law doesn't address compassion care centers. Yet the centers' advocates contend these facilities have the right to operate -- and that includes distributing marijuana and allowing buyers to smoke the drug on the centers' premises.
Marijuana is big business. California is proof. Since the state legalized medical marijuana use in 1996, the drug has yielded as much as $105 million a year in sales tax revenues.
California cities also are struggling to manage the law's effects. Los Angeles tried to reduce the number marijuana dispensaries -- there were more than 600 before the city passed an ordinance this year to restrict them.
Kimball's new ordinance also prohibits the use of marijuana and the sale of drug paraphernalia at those facilities. Whether the ordinance stands ultimately could depend on the courts.
Lansing must make the law's clarification a priority. The disputes in Kimball and many other communities must to be resolved.
Newshawk: Richard Lake
Pubdate: Thu, 30 Dec 2010
Source: Times Herald, The (Port Huron, MI)
Copyright: 2010 The Times Herald
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